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Lecture

Pascal's Wager

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Department
Philosophy
Course Code
Philosophy 1020
Professor
John Thorp

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Pascal's Wager October-02-12  An argument for the rationality of religious belief About the assignment  There are no right/wrong answers, we are being marked on how we present our argument Who is Pascal?  French thinker, 1623-1662,  Inventor of probability calculus  Laid foundations of infinitesimal calculus  Built the first calculating machine  Experiments in physics, especially fluid dynamics  Religious thinker and writer (Jansenist-moral reformist movement under Roman Catholic nation)  "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me"  "Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed."  Pascal thought the arguments for the existence of God were not compelling  And also that the arguments against the existence of God were not compelling  He thought we were caught in inescapable ignorance about whether God exists or not 1. Pascal's fundamental vision  So, he lowered the bar: he proposed that if we can't settle the truth of the matter about the existence of God, we should ask a different question: o Given that the evidence does not compel us one way or another, is it reasonable to believe in God?  Or rather: o Is it more rational to believe in God (and behave accordingly) or not to believe in God (and behave accordingly)  What's the best bet? We have to bet because we don't know the truth 2. Constructing the Wager  Where G stands for the proposition that God exists, etc.  G may be true or it may be false  And I may believe G or not believe G  Cross-dividing these two pairs of alternatives we get four possible combinations: I believe G G is true I believe G G is false I don't believe G G is true I don't believe G G is false Combinations and Outcomes I believe G
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